Akron-based singer-songwriter Ryan Humbert is one of Northeast Ohio’s most active musicians. If he’s not playing solo dates, he’s paying tribute to icons such as Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan with large, extravagant shows. And that’s not to mention his elaborate Christmas concerts. Somehow, he’s found time to record a new album; he plays a CD release show at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7, at the Kent Stage, and the Strange Familiar will open with an acoustic set.
Recorded at the Rukkus Room in Nashville, the album is arguably Humbert’s best. “We used top-notch session guys in Nashville," says Humbert. "This is the fastest we have ever made a record. We made it in six days straight. I had over 30 tunes and the producers and I sat down and whittled it down to the best.”
He wrote the moody title track about his mother’s battle with breast cancer. “That song was inspired by her struggle,” he says. “I just wanted to write a song that was inspirational.” For “California to Ohio,” he worked with Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter Kim Richey; the song tells the story of Humbert’s grandfather, Ron Humbert, and his 1953 journey hitchhiking from Camp Pendleton, Calif. (where he was stationed as a Marine) to Hartville, Ohio so that he could see his wife Norma and their newborn daughter. “We had a lot of fun with that song,” says Humbert. “It just happened that Kim and I were talking about family and somehow that story came up and we thought it might be a good song. I was so thrilled that it happened that way. I wanted it be specific and tell their story but I wanted other people to relate to it as well. The details help you put yourself in the song.”
Album closer “Space Enough,” a song he co-wrote with local singer-songwriter Tracey Thomas, features the McCrary Sisters on backing vocals; the sisters have recorded with acts such as Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. “I told them about the song, and they happened to like it and did it,” he says. “I was honored to have them on it. That song has a darker current but we took it in a more positive direction with the choir. We added a little bit of hope.”
Copies of the new album will be available for purchase at the show, as well as new T-shirts, lyric books and a new EP of unreleased material from 2011. Tickets to the concert are $10 in advance, $14 the day of the show.